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I got a little stuck on last week’s TIME cover previewing the Pope’s visit to Turkey.
Given Benedict’s Regensburg attack on Islam, and TIME’s cover story suggesting the Pope had stirred the pot in order to set up a confrontation, I couldn’t figure out the image. If he was heading to Turkey for a debate, why the minimal presence with his back (and staff) turned?
Watching the trip unfold, however, the image makes more sense.
Of course, interpretations are simply that, but the TIME cover might have actually telegraphed this week’s turnabout, in which Ratzinger reversed (or, simply stuffed) his attitude, as well as performed a complete 180º regarding Turkey’s bid to join the E.U.
Because outfits like TIME exist to stir controversy, one can see now that the magazine hyped the bigotry at the expense of political logic. With the Turkish visit representing one enormous powder keg, was there really any chance that the calculating Pope would disembark Air Vatican with a lighter in hand?
If TIME got textually worked up, however, the cover actually relayed an exception.
For thematic comparison, by the way, check out today’s very prominent NYT front page image (cover pdf; on-line version with article). The shot shows Benedict in the foreground, in shadow, at the memorial to Ataturk. Visually (and strategically this week), the Pope has become subordinate to Ataturk, the country’s democratic and secular conscience (just like they way, in the TIME cover, the Pope is subordinated to the name/icon of Islam.)
In both shots, as well, the Pope is physically obscured.
The fact his face doesn’t show in either instance suggests that a calculating Ratzinger, while preserving his authority as a political presence, seems on the way to diminishing himself as the central issue.
(image: Max Ross/Reuters. Nov. 27, 2006. Cover. time.com)